Ghosts of Charlotte Street life

Sam Lomberg recalls more memories of Charlotte Street, Tottenham Court Road and the street life of the West End.

By Sam Lomberg

Looking south down Charlotte Street at the church of St John the Evangalist (consecrated in 1846). In the house between the church and the corner with Chitty Street lived John Constable until his death in its attic room in 1837. Picture taken during the 1930s, courtesty of Sam Lomberg.

Looking south down Charlotte Street at the church of St John the Evangelist (consecrated in 1846). In the house between the church and the corner with Chitty Street lived John Constable until his death in its attic room in 1837. Both buildings were demolished in the 1960s. Picture taken during the 1930s, courtesy of Sam Lomberg.

In the previous article about my childhood I mentioned the bicycle “salesmen” selling Walls and Eldorado ice cream. But they weren’t the only “delicacies” I remember so well. Walls also had sausages – and in those days sausages were filled with meat and not bread crumbs! And no meal with sausages was complete without baked beans – and they had to be Heinz baked beans.

Remember I’m 90 years’ old and maybe you’ll think I’m daft, but I’ve always eaten and loved Heinz baked beans and tomato ketchup and for me they still have the same taste. Unfortunately the Danes (I now live in Denmark) don’t know what they’re missing, but they don’t seem to like baked beans and in any case it’s difficult to find Heinz beans here. Another problem is that in Denmark you can only get Heinz ketchup in plastic bottles, so it’s much thinner and doesn’t taste the same. All this has nothing to do with Fitzrovia – just a bit of useless information…

I also mentioned Solly’s fish and chip shop in Cleveland Street. While we were in London last September I tried some fish and chips, not wrapped in a piece of a newspaper – just didn’t taste the same. In any case the present generation seems to prefer shwarma and pizzas – have they no respect for tradition?

Let’s get back to Fitzrovia and ice cream. Of course when I say nothing is like it was in the old days, readers will say “Typical old man – nothing is as good” – but I promise you, you’ll never ever taste anything as good as Freedman’s ice cream. Abie Freedman’s shop was also in Cleveland Street, he made the ice cream himself and during the summer months there would always be a queue outside his shop. I don’t know when the shop closed, but sorry to say it wasn’t there when I came home after the war.

Do any of you remember the cockles and winkles stalls? There used to be one on the corner of Tower Street, close to Cambridge Circus. I knew it well since MGM Pictures, where I worked, was in Tower Street. I can’t remember its name, but the stall was just outside a pub, which was very handy. Are there any cockles and winkles stalls anywhere these days – do people still eat them?

Gone are the barrow boys selling bananas, no more rag and bone man, the muffin man doesn’t come on Sundays, there are no buskers entertaining the queues outside the cinemas on Tottenham Court Road, (the cinemas have also disappeared), also gone is the smell of freshly baked bread when you walked past Zellers bakery in Fitzroy Street, there’s no clop-clop of horses hooves, no more church bells from the church in Charlotte Street, no newspaper man standing on the corner of Charlotte Street and Howland Street shouting: “Star, News and Standard, all the latest results!” But as I walked along Charlotte Street. I’m sure I saw Prince Monolulu’s ghost and heard him shout: “I gotta’ horse!”

As a wise man once said “The only thing that is constant is change”

2 Comments on Ghosts of Charlotte Street life

  1. I really approve of your love declaration to Heinz beans: I am not into brands myself but I really liked that “bit of useless information”.

    Also, I can put myself forward as an occasional chip eater: fish is no-go-zone for me but chips with mushy peas are still going strong with me, differently from shwarma and pizza! And many people I know love fish & chips, hence don’t give up all hope on us, the present generation! 🙂

    Always a pleasure to read your memory trips: keep them coming!

  2. My Grandmother was married in that church and some of her brothers and her father sold fruit in Oxford Street THEY KEPT THEIR HORSES IN GOWER STREET MEWS NORTH and lived over the top of the stables. One lived in Gower Street.
    They were the BAKERS wonder if you knew them.
    And one big change is that all the English have now moved out.

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